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Can You Teach Leadership Skills?

Are leaders born? Or made? Or is it some combination of both? My experience says that it fundamentally comes down to this: Leadership is a choice. It is product of what we believe about ourselves in any given scenario. Our beliefs are our internal operating systems.

For example, if I believe that I’m not a good public speaker and never will be, then guess what? You got it. I will be terrible up there on stage. But what if someone asked me, what’s the story you make up about totally messing up, speaking in front of lots of people? How I begin to answer that will begin to reveal what I believe about myself. For me, it is likely tied up in my sense of worth. And wow, that’s not helpful to getting better at public speaking.

How might I change the story?

We begin by asking questions:

1) What’s the story? For example, in the public speaking example I gave, you might ask me: “If you flub on stage (or trip over yourself), what would that say about you?” “Why is that a problem for you?” “What is the risk?” My story gradually unfolds. And I can look at it objectively.

2) How does the story serve you? If not, how else might we look at this? “What would you rather believe about yourself?” (That public speaking has nothing to do with my sense of worth.) And “what is the new story that would support this belief?”

Leadership skills can be taught: how to communicate more effectively, how to be more strategic, how to develop systems awareness, for example. The real issue is if they can be learned. If they can agree with our inner operating systems.

Until we get into the stories – our beliefs — underlying what’s going on, we risk bouncing along the surface, at the whim of the many trade winds that threaten to blow us off course.

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